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A weight-loss diet may increase heart disease risk – says study

A diet meant for weight loss reported to have long-term impacts on cardiovascular health and metabolism

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A new study sheds light on the long-term effects of weight-loss diets, as well as involuntary food consumption reductions brought on by food poverty.

Could severe calorie reduction and raise contribute to physiological changes that increase the risk of heart disease or diabetes later in life?

A new study may shed light on the long-term effects of weight-loss diets, as well as involuntary food consumption reductions brought on by food insecurity.

The majority of prior human and animal studies have focused on the short-term effects of weight loss, but researchers say little is known about how weight loss and gain cycles affect long-term health.

16 rats were separated into two groups for the investigation. Throughout the trial, one group ate normally, while the other went through three cycles of a restricted diet (60 percent of their typical daily food intake) followed by three weeks of normal eating.

The researcher employed ultrasound to analyze the rats’ cardiac and renal function, as well as blood tests to assess insulin sensitivity, a measure of how the body processes sugar, at the conclusion of the trial.

“We found that animals going through several cycles of weight loss [or weight cycling, also known as Yo-yo dieting – described as the pattern of losing weight] and body weight recovery had reduced heart and kidney function at the end. They also had more insulin resistance, which can be a cause for diabetes,” says Aline M. A. de Souza, PhD, first author of the study. “Even though the animals look to be healthy after ‘recovery’ from the diet, their heart and metabolism are not healthy.”

The findings also raise public health concerns in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as whether persons who had difficulty acquiring food as a result of pandemic lockdowns and economic consequences may have an elevated risk of cardiovascular disease in the future.

“Our data supports the need for additional research in people to find out if individuals who do cycles of very restrictive diets to lose weight are at higher risk of developing heart problems later in life,” adds de Souza.

“The findings suggest,” according to the author, “the more restrictive the diet is, the worse the health outcomes may be. Weight loss diets need careful consideration of long-term health, especially if rapid weight loss is being contemplated as an option.”

While more research is needed to determine the biological mechanisms behind the findings and determine whether the patterns observed in rats translate to people, researchers speculate that changes in gene expression in response to caloric restriction could alter biological pathways that regulate blood pressure and insulin metabolism.

Image Credit: Getty

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